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NIH to Award $25M for Newborn Sequencing Studies

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Human Genome Research Institute and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development plan to award $25 million to fund studies of how genome sequencing could be used to improve treatments for disorders affecting newborns.

In a new funding announcement posted yesterday, the institutes said they plan to support research on the "implications, challenges, and opportunities" associated with using sequencing to treat and better understand newborn disorders.

"DNA-based testing is currently used to confirm diagnoses for some newborn conditions," Anastasia Wise, an epidemiologist at NHGRI's Office of Population Genomics, said in a statement.

But the National Institutes of Health wants to find other ways that sequencing could be used to actually treat newborn, and explore the potentially unique ethical problems that newborn medicine may present.

"Pilot studies funded under this program will be useful to determine whether or not having genome sequence information contributes to improved clinical care of newborns," Wise said.

"The use of expanded genomic information has the potential to significantly impact newborn screening in both the clinical and public health setting and benefit numerous infants and children. However, it is vital that the use of genomic technology in newborns is explored in a thoughtful manner by teams of scientists who develop technology, treat children, and examine the ethical, legal and societal implications of implementing such programs," Tiina Urv, of NICHD's Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities branch, said in a statement.

As GenomeWeb Daily News reported in May, these research projects will pursue three goals: to expand the scale of genomic data on newborns that is available for analysis; to conduct clinical, DNA-based analyses into specific disorders that are identified through newborn screening; and to study the ethical, legal, and social implications that may arise when genome sequencing is applied to newborns.

Applicants for the funding will be expected to try to discover how genome sequencing can replicate or add to known newborn screening testing, what knowledge sequencing can provide about conditions currently not screened for in newborns, and what additional knowledge can be gained through genome sequencing that is relevant to clinical care of newborns.

The grant program, which will fund projects of up to five years, was developed based on the advice of a panel of experts that joined in an inter-institute workshop focused on newborn sequencing.

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